A Nebraska Democratic official has been removed Thursday from his chairman post after recordings emerged in which he said he was glad that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot and that he wished he had died.
In the recording, Phil Montag, who was the volunteer co-chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party’s technology committee, criticized Scalise by saying “his whole job is to … convince Republicans to (expletive) kick people off (expletive) health care.”
“I’m glad he got shot. … I wish he was (expletive) dead.”
The recording was posted on YouTube and other sites.
The comments surfaced just more than a week after James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on a congressional baseball team in Virginia where Scalise and four others were wounded. The gunman was shot and killed by police.
Montag could not be immediately reached for comment, but he told the Omaha World-Herald that his statements were taken out of context from a 30-minute to hour-long conversation.
“I do not and did not wish for his death,” Montag said to the World-Herald via email.
“I am hopeful that the entirety of the original, unedited recording will emerge so we can get to the truth of the matter.”
Scalise is still in the hospital and now in fair condition, according to a post on his official Twitter account.
Scalise’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb told The Washington Post that she learned about the recording Thursday from the World-Herald, and that she immediately emailed Montag to tell him he was being removed from his position.
“I’ve been in politics and community organizations for the past 20 years,” Kleeb said. “I’ve seen political rhetoric get heated, especially during the George W. Bush times, but we have reached a completely different level in our country now, and it is terrifying, and it is scary, and it just has to end.”
The committee advised the party on new technologies such as new text-to vote tools, Kleeb said.
In the recording, Montag was speaking with Nebraska Democratic Party Black Caucus chair Chelsey Gentry-Tipton, who has been embroiled in her own controversial comments about Scalise.
She had written in a Facebook post about the shooting that “Watching the congressman crying on live tv abt the trauma they experienced. Y is this so funny tho?”
The Nebraska Republican Party called Montag and Gentry-Tipton’s comments “completely reprehensible and disappointing,” according to the Associated Press. It also posted a message to Facebook saying, “this is not a partisan matter and this type of toxic rhetoric must be condemned at every level.”
The controversy in Nebraska comes as politicians from both sides of the aisle have called for a more civil tone in the political conversation, and artistic productions and celebrity comments have faced criticism for what some say is the promotion of violence.
Recently, conservatives have criticized a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” in New York’s Central Park, where title character, who resembles President Trump, is assassinated. On Friday, actor Johnny Depp apologized for making remarks about assassinating the president.
“I apologize for the bad joke I attempted last night in poor taste about President Trump. It did not come out as intended, and I intended no malice. I was only trying to amuse, not to harm anyone,” he said in a statement to People.